Kate Forbes Hits Out At 'Illiberal' Debate Over Her Religious Views

SNP leadership hopeful warns of "dark and dangerous days" if some people are "beyond the pale".
Scottish National Party leadership candidate Kate Forbes in Edinburgh after the recording of a television interview.
Scottish National Party leadership candidate Kate Forbes in Edinburgh after the recording of a television interview.
Andrew Milligan via PA Wire/PA Images

Kate Forbes has criticised the “illiberal” debate about her religious convictions as she vowed to fight on to succeed Nicola Sturgeon as Scotland’s first minister.

The SNP leadership hopeful, who is a member of the evangelical Free Church of Scotland, caused controversy on her first day of campaigning when she said she would have voted against gay marriage when it was made legal almost a decade ago.

A day later the 32-year-old said having children outside of marriage is “wrong”.

Forbes, Scotland’s finance secretary, lost some of her high-profile supporters in the leadership contest after a series of interviews, and her positions have prompted a debate about whether certain views were effectively disqualifying in frontline British politics.

Former Tory party leader William Hague said Forbes would not be elected to lead of the Conservatives due to her opposition to gay marriage, adding: “So try getting elected leader of a more left-wing party with that view ... that’s the difficulty that she’s got.”

In an interview with STV, Forbes said the outcry had drawn out a “fascinating question at the heart of Scottish political discourse: what does liberalism mean?

“Have we become so illiberal that we cannot have these discussions? Because if some people are beyond the pale then those are dark and dangerous days for Scotland. I think this campaign will draw that out.”

Kate Forbes is running for First Minister 'at the moment' as she defends gay marriage stance. https://t.co/DOllPAdSQ8 pic.twitter.com/5SOV3VtO3M

— STV News (@STVNews) February 21, 2023

Forbes’ comments on same-sex marriage saw her lose support from employment minister Richard Lochhead, public finance minister Tom Arthur, and children’s minister Clare Haughey.

Haughey tweeted: “I absolutely and completely support equal marriage. I am unequivocal on this issue. I cannot continue to support Kate’s leadership campaign.”

Business minister Ivan McKee, who has supported Forbes, said he would be “talking to Kate this evening about the campaign”.

Asked by STV News if she was still committed to seeing her campaign through, despite that loss of support, Forbes said: “At the moment, yes.”

She added “at the moment” she was committed to continuing her campaign until March 27 – when the ballot for SNP members to choose their party’s new leader closes.

Forbes, health secretary Humza Yousaf and former community safety minister Ash Regan are all running in the contest to replace Nicola Sturgeon as SNP leader and first minister following her surprise resignation announcement last week.


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